Islay and Jura Summit, 4TH April 2018

MP summit has Islay and Jura top of the agenda How to build a strategic, long-term plan for sustainable economic growth on Islay and Jura was the only item on the agenda at a high-level Summit meeting organised by Argyll & Bute MP Brendan O’Hara (Wednesday, 4th April).

Source:  BRENDAN O’HARA MP – ISLAY AND JURA SUMMIT, 4TH APRIL 2018

Feature Photo Source

Feorlean, Michael Russell MSP,Humza Yousaf, Brendan O Hara, Islay Jura, Calmac
My friend and colleague Humza Yousaf is the Scottish Government Minister for Transport and for Islands.
This is him on an island – Jura – with another one – Islay – in the background.
And for good measure a ferry is coming in.
I was with him and my constituency MP colleague Brendan O’Hara today at a variety of events on both islands. .

Among those attending the Summit at the Gaelic Centre in Bowmore were three Scottish government ministers, Humza Yousaf (Transport and Islands) Fiona Hyslop (Tourism) and Michael Russell MSP (Brexit), as well as the Chief Executives of both Argyll & Bute Council and Highland & Islands Enterprise.

The views of the whisky industry were articulated by The Scotch Whisky Association and Diageo, as well as representatives of numerous distilleries on Islay and Jura.

Also present to give the all-important view of the local population were both the Islay and Jura Community Councils, the local Ferry Users Group and the islands’ Tourism and Marketing Group.

They were joined by senior management from CalMac, Transport Scotland, Visit Scotland and Mundell’s Hauliers.

In opening the Summit Mr. O’Hara explained his reason for bringing together so many representatives of national government, local government, the community, public bodies and industry together on Islay.

He said

“Both as MP for Argyll & Bute and as the Chair of the All Party Group on Scotch Whisky at Westminster, everyone I speak to talks about their plans to increase spirit production on these islands and the rise in tourist numbers that will inevitably follow.

Yet at the same time, I know the people of Islay and Jura are at the end of their tether over the crumbling road infrastructure and the huge challenges posed by a ferry service that is very often unreliable and occasionally bursting at the seams.

So I just couldn’t see how increased spirit production, coupled to the inevitable rise in visitor numbers would be possible given the already huge demands being put on both the roads and the ferries.

It seemed that everyone was happily ploughing their own furrow, without any strategic overview or a long-term plan for sustainable economic growth.

That couldn’t go on and I felt it essential that all the stakeholders, from community to national government got together to arrive at a shared vision for the future wellbeing of Islay and Jura.”

Following the meeting, he went on to say,

“And I am absolutely delighted at the announcement by Transport Scotland today that Islay will be the first in line in the next vessel procurement exercise to replace the MV Hebridean Isles. I am also delighted to hear that everyone present at this summit is in agreement about one thing and that is a need for better and more collaborative working and I welcome Humza Yousaf commitment to do everything as practicably possible to ensure the challenges are met and the islands’ potential is realised.”

Immediately after the Summit finished, Mr. O’Hara travelled to Craighouse on Jura to host a public meeting with Humza Yousaf MSP before returning to Bowmore to meet with several local groups including TSI, the Seniors Forum, local councillors, the National Farmers Union of Scotland, South Islay Development, The islands’ Health and Social Care partnership and the small business forum to share how the Summit meeting went and to discuss what steps the local community want to take next in advancing the interest of Islay and Jura .

The day ended with an open meeting at which O’Hara fielded questions from the public about the Summit.

BEAR & Transport Scotland To Take Immediate Action To Repair A83

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has welcomed a commitment by Transport Scotland and BEAR Scotland, its operating company for the NW Trunk Roads, to take “immediate action” to repair sections of the road that have deteriorated very badly this winter.

Mr Russell has been making representations to Transport Scotland and the Transport Minister for several weeks following a sharp increase in complaints about the road. Sections around Inveraray, near Inverniel and at Arrochar are baldly potholed and regular road users have reported a growing number of incidents of burst tyres and damage to suspension.

Mr Russell commented: “As a regular user of the road myself I too have noticed a massive increase in potholes and places where the surface appears to be breaking up. Just after new year I drove to Inveraray and was horrified at the state of the carriage way at Strone Point where major roadworks are underway. I have also noticed similar severe problems coming into Arrochar and have information and pictures from other road users elsewhere on the route.

The A83 is the main artery for much of Argyll. For some weeks I have been making strong representations to Transport Scotland and to BEAR, alongside Cllr Dougie Philand as well as keeping the Transport Minister informed.

I have now held a telephone conference with senior management at the companies and been assured of immediate action, first of all to tackle the worst of the potholes with more regular inspections and emergency follow up work for the worst incidents followed by a repair programme, replacing sections of surface where necessary. There will also be improved signage and an information campaign.

I will be holding the company to these commitments and Transport Scotland has agreed to provide me and Cllr Philand with a weekly update. I will also continue to ensure that complaints are attended to with urgency.

I am grateful to all those who have used social media and other means to draw attention to this unacceptable state of affairs and I am glad that their concerns have now been listened to. I would urge road users to continue to monitor the situation and to ensure that the promises are kept.